Spanish is the common language in Spain but there are other languages spoken in some regional areas. In regions, such as Cataluña, Galicia or the Basque Country, both Spanish and the regional language are official languages. Even though the number of bilingual speakers in Bilbao is growing, Spanish is still the most widespread, it is know by everyone and used by the vast majority of the population in everyday life.
As for the variant of Spanish spoken in Bilbao, it is remarkable the way people neatly articulate each vowel of every word, with the only exception of participles ending in – "ado", which never fail to drop the “d” and lose one syllable: "comprao" instead of “comprado”(bought); "Olvidao" instead of olvidado (forgotten)
At grammatical level, the language in Bilbao meets morpho-syntactic standards and it is free of examples of “laismo” and “loismo”, so prevalent in Castilla and La Mancha. There is only a remarkable misuse of tenses in conditional sentences involving the imperfect conditional, which is replaced with a conditional:
- "Si sabría la respuesta te la diría" (If I would know the answer I would tell you) instead of "Si supiera la respuesta te la diría" (If I would know the answer I would tell you)
This also refers to the past perfect:
- "Si habrían sabido la verdad te lo habrían dicho" (If they would have known the answer they would have told you) instead of "Si hubieran sabido la verdad te lo habrían dicho" ('If they had known the answer they would have told you...')
But the highlight of Spanish spoken in Bilbao is the very intonation and rhythm of all oral exchanges, the clarity of diction and superb correction.
At a socio-linguistic level, there are also peculiarities of the speech in Bilbao. The most important (shared by all the Basque Country) is the restricted use of formal ways of addressing involving 'usted' (only used in the Tourism and Hospitality industry). The use of 'tu' is widespread in the whole Basque Country, which makes daily communication easier for foreigners.
On many occasions, Castilian and Spanish are terms used as two different ways to refer to a language spoken today by about four hundred million people.
One of the forerunners of the Spanish language was Castilian Romance dialecto, which originated in the medieval county of Castile. It is for this reason that this "new" language was called Castilian. Later, it spread around the entire peninsula and ended up becoming the predominant language, thus acquiring the name "Spanish."
Currently, the issue of whether to call it Spanish or Castilian lies in the Spanish State itself, where many bilingual speakers do not approve the term ‘Spanish’ since it comprises other languages such as Valencian, Galician, Catalan and Basque, which have an official status within their territories.
That is why many of the state bilingual speakers usually call the language ‘Castilian’ instead of ‘Spanish’, and differentiating the other language they use.
It is worth noting that the term ‘Spanish’, though relatively recent, is used internationally (Spanish, espagnol, Spanisch ...).
However, both "Spanish" and "Castilian" are completely valid ways of referring to the common language of Spain and many Latin nations.
Today, the controversy over which of the names is the more appropriate is now outdated and the Royal Academy (whose members have agreed to use the term ‘Spanish language’) has established that it doesn’t make a difference whether you use Castilian or Spanish .
They add, however, that the word ‘Spanish’ "is more advisable for its lack of ambiguity, since it refers unequivocally to the language spoken by so many millions of speakers."
Also, the Royal Academy states that, although synonymous with Spanish, "it is preferable to reserve the term ‘Castilian’ to refer to the Castilian Romance dialect born in the Kingdom of Castile during the Middle Ages, or the Spanish dialect spoken today in this region."
Nevertheless, it is clear that both "Spanish" as "Castilian" are two synonymous terms used to refer to the language of Spain and Latin American countries alike.